Competitive Elections Are Bad For Us?

Most of us give very little thought to the U.S. Census Bureau and the census that is taken once every ten years.  Ho hum, right?  We get a form, fill it out, send it back and at the end, we read in the news how many people live in the country … just another statistic to store away somewhere in the backs of our minds, for there are more important things to think about.  But you may want to start thinking a bit harder about the census that will be taken in 2020.

census logoThe census is about more than simply counting how many people are in the country.  It is also the source for the demographics that are used by the government to make policy decisions. And, it determines such things as how many electoral votes each state gets, how may representatives each state will have in Congress, and where district lines will be drawn.  Therefore, it is pretty important to have accuracy in the census.  Though it is impossible to ever have complete accuracy, the Census Bureau strives for the highest possible degree of accuracy … we hope.

Currently, the head of the U.S. Census Bureau is a temporary career civil servant, and as the agency is beginning to gear up for the 2020 census, Trump is looking to appoint a permanent head for the bureau. Now think back to some of Trump’s other appointments. Trump has made a habit of appointing individuals to serve in his administration who are either supremely unqualified or seemingly opposed to the very objectives of the agencies they are tapped to lead:  Betsy DeVos, who is against public schools, for Secretary of the Department of Education; Jeff Sessions, a known racist, for U.S. Attorney General; Scott Pruitt, who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multiple times, for head of the EPA, the very agency he has threatened to abolish. So who, you might ask, is Trump reportedly planning to appoint to lead the Census Bureau?


Thomas Brunell

Thomas Brunell, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Dallas, and author of the book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America (Controversies in Electoral Democracy and Representation).  Think on this one for just a minute, friends.  The man who will be in charge of the department that will determine how representation is apportioned believes that competitive elections are a bad thing.  Mind-boggling, don’t you think?

The leadership positions in the U.S. Census Bureau have typically been held by non-partisan civil servants with a background in statistics. Trump is planning to nominate Brunell to the number two position at the bureau, deputy director, which does not require Senate confirmation, as the position of director would. Brunell would become the highest-ranking permanent official at the agency. Though the deputy director technically reports to the census director, that slot is temporarily being filled by a career civil servant. There is currently no nominee for a permanent director.

brunell-bookTrump has already paved the way for curtailment of voter’s rights with his false, unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 elections.  He is also said to be considering an executive order to add a question to the census form about immigration/citizenship status, which would reduce the number of responses from minorities, fearing what the government might do with the information.  At the same time, his budget calls for an inadequate 7% increase for the Census Bureau at a time when they bureau must hire tens of thousands of people and open dozens of field offices nationwide.  And we cannot forget his ‘Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ which has been the source of much controversy and is currently facing a number of lawsuits after attempting to collect the private information, including Social Security numbers and criminal conviction data of registered voters.

The appointment of Brunell is but another indication that Trump has little respect for our rights as voters, for the democratic process.  My hope is that Trump will be out of office by the end of 2018, but even so, many of the moves he is making today, such as the appointment of Brunell, may be difficult to undo, if his replacement is even willing to reverse his actions.  Coupled with the fact that there is no doubt in my mind Russia will continue to play a role in our elections, since there have been no repercussions to them, no sanctions, for their proven interference in the 2016 elections, I think it’s safe to say our right to have a voice in government is greatly diminished.

Terri Ann Lowenthal, former co-director of the Census Project, said, “It is imperative that the Census Bureau’s leadership be viewed by the public and by lawmakers as completely nonpartisan. If either the director or the deputy director bring partisan baggage to their position, public confidence in the integrity of the census could plummet. So could congressional confidence. And it is Congress that must accept the apportionment results. All this stuff worries me.”

The Judge Who Should Not Be …

Thus far, in his 10 months in office, Trump has nominated 60 mostly white males for positions in the judiciary.  His most recent choice, however, is raising some eyebrows, including my own.  The man is Brett Talley, and while I’m sure there are some people out there who are less qualified, it would be hard to find one in judicial circles, for Mr. Talley has never tried a case before.

Talley-1Talley earned his JD from Harvard Law School in 2007, but spent the next several years working on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and as a speechwriter for Ohio’s Senator Rob Portman.  He has practiced law, in fact, for just under three years, and again, has never tried a case. So what, you ask, qualifies him for the position of United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama?  Read on …

  • He has pledged support for the National Rifle Association, saying “The NRA stands for all of us now, and I pray that in the coming battle for our rights, they will be victorious.”
  • He panders to Trump: “Those who argue that another Clinton White House is somehow preferable to four years of Trump are blind to the consequences, for the nation, for the party and for the conservative movement.”
  • He was unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.
  • He once referred to Hillary Clinton as “Hillary Rotten Clinton” on his public Twitter account. He also once posted that she should be in jail.
  • In 2013, he wrote on his blog that armed revolution was an important defense against tyrannical government.
  • He is young (36), white, and male, as have been almost all of Trumps judicial nominations.
  • He will serve in Alabama, a state where Roy Moore served twice and was thrown off the bench both times.
  • He is an author of three published horror novels and two “true ghost” stories. “I consider it a gift. In horror novels being the antichrist is, like, the highest honor possible.”

Talley-2Last Thursday, November 9th, Talley was endorsed in a 11-9 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the vote will next go to the full Senate for vote.  It will require three republican senators to vote ‘nay’ in order to stop this nomination.  But wait … if you weren’t already convinced that he is highly unqualified, there’s more …

As part of the confirmation process, Talley was required to fill out a questionnaire in which he was specifically asked to identify family members and others who are “likely to present potential conflicts of interest.” He rather failed to mention one very important connection:  his wife, Ann Donaldson, is in fact, the chief of staff to the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II.  He also conveniently forgot to mention his wife when he described his frequent contact with White House lawyers.

Talley-wifeWhy does his wife and her position matter?  A couple of reasons …

  • District judges often provide the first ruling when laws are called into question, decisions that can put them at odds with the White House and its lawyers. Remember the judges in Hawaii and Maryland who temporarily blocked Trump’s travel ban?
  • Donaldson has emerged in recent weeks as a witness in Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice. She was interviewed by investigators recently about her detailed notes about conversations with Mr. McGahn on topics including the firing of the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey.

In my opinion, which coupled with about $5 will buy you a Starbucks coffee, he is highly unqualified, if for no other reason than that his failure to disclose his wife’s position displays a lack of honesty.  Pair that, if you will, with the fact that he has never tried a case and only practiced law for under three years, and this man is not federal judge material. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disagrees:

“Mr. Talley served as deputy solicitor general for the state of Alabama, currently serves in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy and was recommended by Alabama’s U.S. senators, He is more than qualified to serve in the federal judiciary.”

I’ve driven a car, too, but it doesn’t mean I know how to build one.

Trump’s goal is to stack the courts with young conservative judges.  Since these are lifetime appointments, this tactic, if successful as it has been thus far, could well result in the next 40 or so years of conservative decisions handed down.  Think what this could do to civil rights, LGBT rights, the rights of non-Christians …

The Senate will surely see their way to refuse to confirm Talley … right?  They should, but then I used to believe in the Tooth Fairy, too.

Hope Hicks – Fame & Fortune

I had to laugh when I read this CNN headline …

Hicks named permanent White House communications director

One word caught my eye:  permanent.  Can anything really be said to be ‘permanent’ in the current administration?  And of all things, the communication director, of which there have been three before Hicks?  She is the fourth in just seven months!  Permanent?  I think not.

hicks-4So, who is Hope Hicks and how did she come to be the new White House communications director?

Just short of 29 years of age, Hope Hicks graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in English in 2010.  Her association with the Trump clan began two years later when, working for the public relations firm of Hiltzik Strategies, she was assigned to the Ivanka Trump clothing line.  In 2014, Ivanka hired Hicks away from Hiltzik Stragegies.  Five months later, in January 2015, Donald Trump called her into his office and, in Ms. Hicks’ words, “Mr. Trump looked at me and said, ‘I’m thinking about running for president, and you’re going to be my press secretary.'”

Although she had no prior experience in politics, no degree in communication, she joined Trump’s campaign before there even was a campaign (Trump did not officially declare his intent to run until June 2015, five months later) and has been an adoring lap puppy ever since.  During the campaign, her main role seemed to be that of guard dog, deciding on a daily basis who among the media would be allowed access to Trump.

hicks-3It is said that Hicks also took dictation from Trump for his tweets, and then sent the text to another person in the Trump organization who actually sent out the tweets from Trump’s official account. Now, I have to question … Trump’s tweets are notorious for spelling errors and poor grammar.  If Hicks has a degree in English, and if she was twitting his tweets … ???

Last year, the New York Times dubbed Hicks as ‘the woman who totally understands Donald Trump’.  I seriously doubt that she understands him, for his mind is a tangled web of frayed filaments.  However, she seems perfectly willing to support him in all things, and to defend his position even when she likely does not understand either the issue at hand or his position.  Take, for example, a statement she issued on 29 May …

“President Trump [sic] has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people …. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.”

Oh please … did she really say “treats everyone with respect”?  Has she not heard how he calls Mexicans ‘rapists and murderers’?  Did she not hear him mock a disabled reporter?  Has she not heard the names he calls those in his own party when they fail to worship the ground he walks on?  Does she not hear the names he calls democrats, the press, judges, and most of all, Hillary Clinton?

And so, we begin to see at least part of the reason that she has now been named White House Communication Director and rewarded for her efforts, whatever they may be, with an annual salary of $179,900. While some, if not most, in Trump’s inner circle see their jobs as being to try to protect Trump from himself, to rein in his unfiltered speech and reduce the controversy, Hicks apparently views her job as to build an ego that is already far too large.

Like Kellyanne Conway, Hicks has sometimes been referred to in the press as the “Trump whisperer”.  My take, not that it matters, but just for the record, is that she is a young gold-digger and will do whatever is required of her, as long as it leads to fame and fortune.


With fellow boot-licker, Kellyanne Conway

Communications to the press from the White House have been poor since the day Trump took office.  As much as I mocked and sometimes railed at Sean Spicer, frankly he was probably the best of the bunch, for at least you could tell when Sean was lying.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sean’s replacement as Press Secretary, never comes off as being either sincere or insincere, but rather always seems impatient and disgusted with all the media.

Now, with Ms. Hicks implanted as communications director, the team of Hicks/Sanders is sure to deliver nothing more than the party line, in other words, “Donald Trump is wonderful and everything he says is right”. I would not believe either of these women if they told me that water is wet.  Congratulations, I suppose, to Hope Hicks … I hope that years from now she still thinks it was worth whatever she had to do for her fame and fortune.

NASA And The New Director …

Dr. Ben Carson – Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State

Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education

Jeff Sessions – Attorney General

Scott Pruitt – Director of the Environmental Protection Agency

The above is a list of just a few of the cabinet members appointed by Donald Trump who are the complete antithesis of the jobs they hold.  I have written at length about each before, so I need not repeat myself here.  However, yesterday a new name was added to the list: Jim Bridenstine for Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

nasa-logoUnlike every other NASA director in the history of the agency, Bridenstine has no science credentials … no background in scientific research, no college degree in any hard science, zip.  His degrees were in business, economics and psychology. In fact, Mr. Bridenstine is an anti-scientist … a climate change denier who seems to believe that, despite the lack of a related education, he knows more than the scientists who have devoted their entire careers to study and research.  This is the man who may soon be in charge of our space program, folks.

Bridenstine has taken climate-change denial to new levels.  In 2013, he gave a lengthy speech to the House of Representatives enumerating his points for disputing the scientific results of climate change. “Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles.” But he then went on to demand that President Obama apologize for funding climate change research!

NASA chart.jpgNASA has been at the forefront of climate change research, and in 2010 a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) science brief summarizing recent research, explains, “A study by GISS  climate scientists recently published in the journal Science shows that atmospheric CO2 operates as a thermostat to control the temperature of Earth. There is no viable alternative to counteract global warming except through direct human effort to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level.”

nasa-2.jpgBoth Senators from Florida, republican Marco Rubio and democrat Bill Nelson, criticized the Bridenstine’s nomination.  Florida, of course, is connected to NASA through the Kennedy Space Center located in Titusville, Florida.  “I just think [his nomination] could be devastating for the space program,” said Rubio. “The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” said Nelson.

Because I am not ‘science-savvy’, have never understood more than basic scientific concepts, I shall simply say that NASA’s Earth Science Division is a key player in providing data and scientific research on environmental issues, including climate change.  NASA’s research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena is world-renowned. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change.

However, since last November, Trump has made it clear that he intends to cut funding for this division and expects NASA to focus only on space exploration, not earth’s environment.  His nominee for director of NASA seems to fit well with his goals of defunding all federally funded environmental research.

Bridenstine, it is said, has long lobbied for ‘opening commercial access’ to space.  What does that mean, exactly? I cannot say for sure (I told you … science is NOT my strong suit) but Bridenstine is a strong advocate for drawing private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin more deeply into NASA’s exploration of space, and he mentions ‘commercial use of the moon’s resources’.  Okay, fine, I suppose, but if we do not address climate change, none of that has any relevance now, does it?

nasa-3Bridenstine’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, and here is where I think there may be some hope.  Given the partisanship in the Senate, no democrat is likely to produce a ‘yea’ vote.  So … it only requires 3 republican senators to vote against Bridenstine’s nomination and he will fail to be confirmed.  Marco Rubio has already expressed concerns, so if he sticks by his guns, there is one.  Since Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists after the Charlottesville attack three weeks ago, many republicans in both the House and the Senate are growing disillusioned with Trump.  And, he has added insult to injury, insulting a number of his own party.  And let us not forget the devastation wreaked by last week’s hurricane on the gulf coast of Texas. My hope is that at least two other republican senators are fed up enough to deny him this confirmation, for Bridenstine and NASA will not be a good combination. Once again, Trump has chosen what may be the worst possible candidate to fill a position.  Let us hope the Senate puts the brakes on this one.


Jim Bridenstine

Who IS General John Kelly???


four-starRetired Four-Star General John Kelly is the new White House Chief of Staff, replacing the abruptly fired Reince Priebus.  But who is General Kelly?  Is he a man of integrity?  Is he a fair and honest man?  Let us take a look …


John and his wife Karen have been married for more than 40 years.  Their marriage has survived not only numerous deployments and military separations, but in 2010 their son, Robert, was killed in action in Sangin, Afghanistan. To keep a marriage alive through all that requires dedication, commitment, and a whole lot of love.  It also says much about the character of the two individuals.

Robert-Kelly-grave.jpgJohn and Karen have two other grown children:  John, Jr., is a Marine Corps Major, and Kathleen, who works for the American Red Cross at Walter Reed Hospital.

Military Career

John enlisted in the Marines in 1970, and was discharged from active duty as a sergeant in 1972, after serving in an infantry company with the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was commissioned on December 27, 1975, as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps via Officer Candidates School. In 1976, he graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston and, in 1984, he received a Master of Science degree in National Security Studies from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

Kelly served in the Persian Gulf War, during the Operation Desert Storm combat phase in January and February 1991. In 2002, Kelly was promoted to Brigadier General. After the Iraq War began, he was deployed to Iraq. He took command of Task Force Tripoli in April 2003 after the fall of Baghdad. Kelly’s last role in the military before retirement in 2016, was commander of U.S. Southern Command. It is one of the Unified Combatant Commands and is responsible for operations in Central and South America. It is based in Doral, Florida. This was his first and only four-star assignment.

Secretary of Homeland Security

Kelly was confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security by a Senate vote of 88-11 on inauguration day, January 20th. In this position, he has consistently supported the idea of a wall spanning the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that he believed “a border wall is essential” as there were “tremendous threats” such as drugs and individuals coming into the U.S. Kelly said of terrorism, “It’s everywhere. It’s constant. It’s nonstop. The good news for us in America is we have amazing people protecting us every day. But it can happen here almost anytime.” He said that the threat from terrorism was so severe that some people would “never leave the house” if they knew the truth. Both of these views are, in my opinion, exaggerated and play on the fears of citizens.

Political Ideology

  • While he was the commander of the Southern Command, he was critical of Barack Obama’s decisions to open combat jobs to women and closing down Guantanamo. He swatted away criticism of inhumane practices in Guantanamo. He also said that the military would be under pressure to “lower standards” for women in combat duty.
  • He is a strong supporter of Trump’s hardline immigration policy and of the contentious, conflict-riddled travel ban.

My take on General Kelly is that he is a good person … he has raised three children, all of whom entered careers involving service to humanity in one form or another, and I find no scandal surrounding any of them.  He has what, from all reports, is a stable, loving marriage that has survived through many situations that would have torn apart less committed couples.  I have concerns, however, about his radical stance on immigration and border security.  Nonetheless, those stances are not really at issue in his present position as White House Chief of Staff.

The White House, contrary to what Donald Trump says, is obviously in a state of chaos.  There are internal power struggles, so many lies that I have lost count, and the leakers.  It would seem that somebody who walks softly and carries a big stick is needed to bring order out of the chaos.  Kelly has little experience for the position but … he does have experience in managing groups of people, so perhaps he can make some sense of the garbage heap that resides in the White House.

IF … if he is a good man of conscience, I think that he cannot possibly last more than six months.  If he stands by his convictions, his integrity, then it is only a matter of time before he and Trump butt heads and … well … Trump is, for the time being, da boss.  Even if that does not occur, my best guess is that within six months Gen. Kelly will tire of the game-playing, the constant lies, the back-stabbing, and the Trump children always getting their way, even when their actions threaten to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down.  If Kelly turns out to be less than a man of honour, then he should fit right in, but I do not think this is the case.  Though I disagree with his stances on immigration, the terrorist threat, and women in the military, I believe he is a man who tries to follow his conscience and do what he believes is best for the nation.

At the very least, his four decades in progressive leadership roles in the military should stand him in good stead for bringing some order to the White House, although with the current cast of characters, I do not think there will ever be complete cohesion.  One can hope that Kelly’s relative sanity remains intact and will at least partly offset the insanity of his boss. Best of luck to General John Kelly … he will need all the luck he can get!

Mr. Scaramucci, The Mooch Is Banished From The White House

It appears that General John Kelly, the new White House Chief of Staff, is not going to put up with all the b.s. that has defined the WH administration thus far. On his first day on the job, he did the nation a great service! Please read Gronda’s excellent post for details! Two thumbs-up to Gen. Kelly! Thank you, Gronda, for being right on top of this!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of anthony scaramucci and reince priebus PRIEBUS/ SCARAMUCCI

It appears that the republican President Donald Trump’s new Chief of State General John Kelly is truly taking charge. The first significant signal is that Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci (Mooch) has been shown the exit door just days after he was hired. At any other competently run organization, he would have been fired within the hour (7/27/17) after he had fired off an X-rated tirade against the then White House’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

In addition. the White House’s Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that all White House Staff will report directly to General Chief Kelly. This includes Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon.

Maybe this chief of Staff will be on the job for at least six months. He is starting out with a bang.

Image result for photos of anthony scaramucci and reince priebusHere is the rest of the story…

On July 31, 2017, Maggie Haberman, Michael D…

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Rules??? Rules Are For Others …

Note:  On Wednesday, 18 July, Donald Trump spoke with three New York Times reporters — Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman — in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office for nearly an hour.  There are a number of points in the interview that I believe need to be addressed at length, and this post is the first of those.

One of our Significant Seven is a beautiful, tiny long-haired cat named Tiger Lily.  We call her the ‘cat from hell’, for she is vicious.  She will beg to be petted, you are contentedly stroking her gorgeous fur, and then out of the blue, with no warning, either her teeth or claws are sunk deeply into your skin.

It would appear that the person occupying the Oval Office has a personality similar to that of Miss Tiger Lily, as he turns on his own just as quickly and with no less viciousness. Take, for example, his remarks about Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his Wednesday interview with the New York Times.

Trump: “So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.

Haberman: “Rosenstein.”

Trump: “Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.”

Trump: “Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore. Now, he, we went through a lot of things. We were interviewing replacements at the F.B.I. Did you know Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed?”

Translation:  If I had known Jeff Sessions was going to follow the law, I would not have hired him.

Let me just set the record straight on a few issues here.

  • Sessions had no choice but to recuse himself once it came to light that, as Trump’s campaign advisor, he met, during the campaign, with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then omitted to inform the Senate Judiciary Committee of the meetings when questioned about it. The law: Justice Department regulations provide that “no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship” with the subject of the investigation or “any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.” As Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, “That regulation states, in effect, that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they have served as a campaign advisor.” In other words, it’s a no-brainer, at least if you understand basic concepts of conflict of interest. What Trump perceives as betrayal is Ethics 101.

  • As regards the appointment by Rod Rosenstein of Robert Mueller as special counsel: Justice Department regulations require appointment of a special counsel when the attorney general, or someone acting in his stead, determines that investigation through the normal departmental processes “would present a conflict of interest for the Department.” How could this not be true of the Russia matter? Even leaving aside the question of whether the president himself is under investigation, it involves the president’s campaign and closest advisers, including relatives. The special counsel regulations were not put in place to torment presidents but to reassure the public that, even in politically sensitive cases, justice would proceed impartially and unimpeded.

rules-Trump-2It would appear that Trump’s reason for his remarks against Sessions is to cause Sessions to resign. I imagine he presumes that if Sessions resigns, he will nominate a new Attorney General, one who will not have need to recuse himself from the investigation, and one who will do Trump’s bidding, which would likely be to fire Robert Mueller and end the independent investigation into the many threads that tie the Russian government to Donald Trump & Co.

Sessions said he and his Justice Department colleagues intended to continue to serve and he would do so “as long as that is appropriate.” In early June, after Trump ranted to various people that Sessions should not have recused himself, Jeff Sessions is said to have offered his resignation, which Trump refused.  But now, with the heat having been turned up even more in light of Don Trump Junior’s meeting in June 2016, apparently Trump is having second thoughts.

What is most troubling about this is that it highlights the fact that Donald Trump believes he is above the law, that laws and rules do not apply to him, and that he can bully his way through any situation.  As most of you know, I have an immense dislike of Jeff Sessions, consider him to be a bigot and a racist, and think he is possibly the worst possible person to lead the Department of Justice.  That said, I hope he is not forced to resign, simply because at present, with Sessions’ hands tied in the Russian investigation and Rosenstein seeming to be a straight shooter, I believe the investigation will proceed.  If Sessions leaves, all bets are off, unless the Senate wakes up and begins to realize that Trump is a power-hungry madman and refuses to confirm any candidate unless they promise to keep Mueller on as special counsel and let him do his job.

Donald Trump apparently believes that his position, his title, render him immune from the law.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and he needs to start being held accountable for both his words and his actions.  Thus far, few have attempted to do so … it is time for that to change.

No Conscience In This Cabinet!

Never before have so many disgusting lies been uttered in one room in a short few hours’ time.  The scene: Trump’s first full cabinet meeting.  The first lie … a yuge lie indeed … came from Trump himself as he opened the meeting saying, “Never has there been a president, with few exceptions, the case of FDR – he had a major Depression to handle – who’s passed more legislation who’s done more things than what we’ve done.” I wonder if the boys and girls in the meeting actually believed that, or if they merely played along? I’m not sure how anybody could have believed him when he has not managed to pass a single major piece of legislation yet, nor is he likely to any time soon.

But the boys and girls who serve as secretaries, directors and senior staff pandered to his ego and praised him as if he were somebody he is not.  For Trump, the first part of the meeting, while the press was in attendance, it was a stage, an opportunity for him to preen, an opportunity of which he took full advantage.

He said he wanted to go around the table and have everyone introduce themselves, as if the whole world isn’t already familiar with the contingent of clowns.  “I’m going to start with our vice-president. Where is our vice-president?” Trump asked, swiveling his head to look for Mike Pence before spotting him seated in the vice-president’s assigned seat, directly across from the president. “There he is,” Trump said jovially to titters from the others. “We’ll start with Mike and then we’ll just go around, your name, your position,” Trump instructed, like a teacher on the first day of school.

And this is where it goes from ridiculous to bizarre …

Vice President Mike Pence: “This is just the greatest privilege of my life.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “It is so great to be here.”

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley: “It’s a new day at the United Nations. I think the international community knows we’re back.”

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry: “My hat’s off to you.”

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “I want to thank you for getting this country moving again.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus: “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda.”

Secretary of Labour Alexander Costa: “I am privileged to be here. Deeply honored.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue: “A lot of us just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Are you feeling ill yet? As soon as the adulation was over, Trump dismissed the press from the room.  As I said, it was a stage, an opportunity for all the world to see just how much he is adored and praised by his minions.  Typically, in another administration, this group would be referred to as the “brain trust”, but I cannot bring myself to use that term here, for there seems to be very little in the way of ‘brains’.

The most interesting thing is that at least some of the people who claimed to be so enamoured of Trump have had serious and ongoing disputes with him.  Jeff Sessions, for example, reportedly tendered his resignation a few weeks ago.  Trump declined to accept it, but nonetheless it indicates that there is conflict there.  And just a few days ago, Trump informed Reince Priebus that he had only until July 4th to “clean up the White House” or else lose his job.  Which leads me to believe that this whole little show put on for the press was scripted.  I strongly suspect that these people were told to praise the Idiot-in-Chief effusively, else they might find themselves in the same unemployment line as former FBI Director James Comey.  I would not be surprised to find that Steve Bannon, who was sitting directly behind Trump during the meeting, gave each person a piece of paper with what they were to say written upon it. That they went along shows us just how unreliable, untrustworthy, what a bunch of wusses and liars these people running our country are.

Christopher Lu, who served as Assistant to the President and White House Cabinet Secretary under President Obama, tweeted, “I ran 16 Cabinet meetings during Obama’s 1st term. Our Cabinet was never told to sing Obama’s praises. He wanted candid advice not adulation.”  Well, that is the difference between a president and a thin-skinned clown.  Trump’s own tweet read, “Finally held our first full @Cabinet meeting today. With this great team, we can restore American prosperity and bring real change to D.C.”  The ‘man’ is wearing rose-coloured glasses, apparently.

This is not one of the world’s most earth-shattering news items, but it is telling, I think, of what we have in the Oval Office.  We have a ‘man’ who places far more importance on being praised than on doing the job for which he was hired.  He is far more attuned to what his paid pansies say, whether they are sincere or not, than to what We The People think.  He is still nothing more than an actor playing a role, and doing so very badly.  His minions who praised him ad nauseam traded their collective consciences for their jobs.  When his ship sinks, they will all be on it and we will say, “Good Riddance”.


Poverty … A State of Mind????

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind.” – Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development

Yesterday morning Dr. Ben Carson was interviewed by Armstrong Williams, a longtime friend, and the interview was aired yesterday evening on SiriusXM Radio.  A few snippets from that interview:

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

“There’s also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mindset. I think the majority of people don’t have that defeatist attitude, but they sometimes just don’t see the way, and that’s where government can come in and be very helpful. It can provide the ladder of opportunity, it can provide the mechanism that will demonstrate to them what can be done.”

Try telling that to the single mother of four who struggles every day to put food on the table and every month to pay the rent.


Carson tours the apartment of Ms. Tracy Grant


87-year-old Alzene Munnerlyn

Earlier this month Carson toured facilities for the poor in Columbus, Ohio where he explained in an interview that in his view, compassion means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”  Although he toured a number of apartments occupied by low income people, he gave the people almost no opportunity to speak with him, to help him to understand their situations.  87-year-old Alzene Munnerlyn living in senior housing said that although he spent about 10 minutes in her apartment, she was not given an opportunity to converse with him. “It was staged. It was so fast.” A dog-and-pony show, some called it.  A photo op … look at the magnanimous Dr. Ben Carson.

At a supportive housing center for drug addicts in Lancaster, Ohio, Trisha Farmer, the chief executive of the Recovery Center, pleaded for more federal help to house recovering addicts. Mr. Carson interjected. “We are talking about incentivizing those who help themselves,” he said, before again asking minutes later about how comfortable the facility was letting people get.

As Zerlina Maxwell tweeted, “Ben Carson said poverty is a state of mind. Next month, I’m going to tell my landlord that I paid my rent with positive thinking!”

I awarded Dr. Carson Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award on March 7th, just a few days after his Senate confirmation. I noted at that time that Carson is as unqualified as Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education) and Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), but no surprise.  Living in the inner city as a child does not, in and of itself, qualify one for the job of Secretary of HUD.  Now, however, Carson lives in a home with an estimated value of $1.2 million and recently purchased a “get-a-way” home in Florida for $4.375 million. His annual salary is just short of $200,000, and according to Forbes, his net worth is $29 million. This is the man who claims to understand poverty, and this is the man upon whom people needing housing assistance must depend.  Spare me. Carson has a complete lack of government experience, lack of knowledge of the issues surrounding his new department and, more importantly, lack of understanding what it is like simply trying to scrape together the rent money each month … all of that makes him remarkably un-qualified.

On Tuesday, Trump’s proposed budget went to the House of Representatives with no chance of passing in its current state.  The budget calls for deep cuts in HUD programs … nearly $6 billion per year. Under those circumstances, HUD needs a strong director, someone who believes in the goals of the agency — to help people; someone who will fight to keep sufficient funding to meet those goals.  Instead, they have a Trump ‘yes-man’, a pansy.

The one bright spot came last month.  Carson has been touring low-income housing in cities around the nation since he took over as Director of HUD, and in April, when he was touring a facility in Miami, he was stuck in an elevator for 20 minutes until the fire department could arrive to free him.  Poetic justice, yes?

Here are a few shots of Carson’s home, just for comparison purposes.


Send In The Clowns

Trump has allowed some 500+ positions to remain unfilled in his administration, in part I imagine because he is having a hard time finding people who are actually willing to become a part of the circus train and risk the ruination of their careers.  However, there are still a few short-sighted clowns out there, driven mainly by greed and the promise of feathering their own nest.  Two such have come onto my radar this morning, and as usual, Trump’s selections reflect the very antithesis of the departments they have been chosen to oversee.

The USDA’s Research, Economics and Education division studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”  So who has Trump tagged to head this important division?  A man who is neither distinguished nor a scientist, one Sam Clovis.

Clovis-1Who, you ask, is Sam Clovis?  Until he joined Trump’s campaign in 2015, he was a tenured professor at Morningside College in his hometown of Sioux City, Iowa.  He took leave from that position to work on the Trump campaign, however is not welcomed back by the college.  After Clovis was quoted defending the Trump campaign’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States, the link between Clovis and the college was broken. A statement from the college said, “We find the view that a particular religion should be discriminated against to be repugnant to the values held at Morningside College. When he was on campus, Dr. Clovis was a staunch defender of the Constitution and a strong advocate for religious freedom. His recent comments appear to be at odds with his earlier views. We find his recent position to be outrageous and disappointing.”

Clovis is a retired Air Force colonel who holds a doctorate in public administration, yet has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate. In 2014, he became a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television. Clovis was also responsible for recruiting Carter Page, whose ties to Russia have become the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny, as a Trump foreign policy advisor.

Catherine Woteki, who served as undersecretary for research, education and economics in the Obama administration, compared the move to appointing someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health.  Let us not give him any ideas here!

Past undersecretaries have been biochemists, plant physiologists, food nutrition experts, and public health experts. Since Clovis has not a single qualification for the position, this is obviously another case of a political favour being returned, and I’m sure his stance against both climate change research and Muslims entering the United States didn’t hurt either.  Clovis will yet have to be confirmed by the Senate, but as we have seen in past appointments that is more or less a rubber-stamp. What happened to ‘draining the swamp’?

Noreika-1Next up on the ol’ radar machine is financial services lawyer Keith Noreika who Trump has already placed as head of the Office of the Comptroller.  Two things disturb me greatly:  a) his appointment is a classic case of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, and b) Trump placed him in the position in a devious manner, bypassing the need for Senate confirmation which might have been a tough sell.  Let us look first at Mr. Noreika’s history.

I’m sure you remember the financial crisis of 2007-2008, right?  The one republicans blamed President Obama for, even though he had not even been elected yet. Noreika played a role in causing that by representing big banks in the early 2000s in lawsuits designed to protect banks from states’ regulations that would protect consumers.  Banks successfully sued to stop Iowa from limiting their ability to charge ATM fees to non-customers. They also fought off states’ attempts to stop them from charging non-customers to cash checks drawn on the banks’ accounts. In another case, they stopped California from forcing two banks to conduct audits of their own residential mortgages. And Noreika represented the banks in all these cases and more … cases whose results contributed to the financial crisis that began in 2007.

During President Obama’s first term, legislation was passed aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the most notable of which was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act regulatory overhaul.  Trump has called Dodd-Frank “a disaster”, even though it is doubtful he understands any part of it. In removing federal controls from the banking industry, an industry that has proven that greed outweighs all else, we would be setting the stage for a repeat of 2008. But that is exactly what Noreika seems prepared to do.

The second issue I have here is the way in which it was done, slyly and in an obvious attempt to circumvent the confirmation process and avoid certain ethics requirements. So how did this happen?  First, he was hired as ‘first deputy’ in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a designation that ensured he would ascend to the top job once it opened. Then the administration ousted Thomas Curry, and just like that, Noreika became acting comptroller. Sneaky, huh? And having attained the position in this way means there is no requirement for public disclosure of an ethics agreement or his former clients.

Noreika’s position, attained in this manner, is limited by law to a term of no more than 130 days, but that is sufficient time for him to do significant damage. Donald Trump has promised his friends in the banking industry that he will gut financial regulations. Both Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchnin have pledged to “unshackle Wall Street” from financial-crisis-era regulations.  It appears that with this shady move, they are well on their way to keeping their promises to their wealthy buddies.  And I’m sure I do not need to remind you who will be picking up the tab.

So, once again Trump has selected two of the absolute worst possible choices for top-level positions.  And the circus train rolls on … and on … and where it stops … nobody knows …